'Stop Soros': Hungary's new parliament set to take aim at pro-refugee NGOs

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has won a third consecutive term in office on a virulently anti-migration platform, and it's likely that advocates for refugees and asylum-seekers will be among the first casualties of his drive to prevent Hungary from becoming an "immigrant country."

Lawmakers expected to approve draft law targeting refugee advocates as early as May

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban speaks during his final campaign rally in Szekesfehervar, Hungary, last Friday. (Bernadett Szabo/Reuters)

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has won a third consecutive term in office on a virulently anti-migration platform, and it's likely that advocates for refugees and asylum-seekers will be among the first casualties of his drive to prevent Hungary from becoming an "immigrant country."

"We created the opportunity for ourselves to defend Hungary," Orban said after his landslide win in Sunday's vote.

An official from Orban's governing Fidesz party said Monday that lawmakers from the right-wing populist group are expected to approve a draft law targeting refugee advocates as soon as May.

Parliamentary spokesperson Janos Halasz the party would be able to push through the so-called "Stop Soros" bills thanks to its new super-majority in the legislature.

Orban claims that the opposition — collaborating with the United Nations, the European Union and wealthy philanthropist George Soros — wants to flood Hungary with mostly Muslim migrants, threatening its security and Christian identity.

The loopholes still present in the legal system which allow unauthorized organizations to rummage around, so to speak, in the doings of political life.- Zoltan Kovacs, government spokesperson

The new laws could make it very hard for groups working with asylum-seekers to continue their activities in Hungary. It would force them to get government permits, their income received from abroad would be taxed and they could be banned from going nearer than eight kilometres from Hungary's borders, where asylum-seekers file claims.

According to the Orban government, Hungary will descend into chaos should it become an "immigrant country" like France or Belgium, with funds meant for Hungarian families or the country's underpriviledged Roma minority diverted to migrants, whose presence will weaken Hungary's security and increase the risk of terrorism.

'There will be no going back'

If migrants settle in Hungary, Orban claims Hungary's economic development will end, its support for rural areas will dwindle, women and girls will be "hunted down" and Budapest, the capital, will become "unrecognizable."

"If the dam bursts, if the borders are opened, if immigrants set foot in Hungary, there will be no going back," Orban said during his campaign-closing rally on Friday. "The greatest threat of all is posed by the millions of immigrants coming from the south, and Europe's leaders ... have no intention of defending the borders."

A police officer with a dog patrols along the border fence on the Hungarian-Serbian border near Roszke, 180 kilometres southeast of Budapest, in April 2017. (Zoltan Gergely Kelemen/MTI via Associated Press)

Orban's clampdown on non-governmental organizations is also based on his belief that only elected politicians have the right to be involved in politics. The government spokesperson made that very clear during the wait for Sunday's election results.

"The loopholes still present in the legal system which allow unauthorized organizations to rummage around, so to speak, in the doings of political life, in political decision-making, need to be closed," Zoltan Kovacs told news website Index.hu.

The Hungarian Civil Liberties Union also expects to become a target of government "legislative and communications attacks."

"I don't expect that this will be an easy two years to come, and I believe that the government will do everything in their power to minimize our impact," said HCLU executive director Stefania Kapronczay. "However, human rights is an ideal and it cannot be shut down."